The Regal Four: A one-minute tribute to one of the greatest rock bands of all time.

One of Queen’s most unique compositions, “Love of my Life” encompasses all aspects of Freddie Mercury’s writing style. Mixed with Brian May’s angular guitar lines, which are perfectly weaved into Mercury’s complex musical twists of phrase, the magic of Queen becomes clear.

Thier music is not, and never has been, typical of the rock genre. It’s one thing to be progressive, but the music of Queen was a step ahead of that. It’s as though the two men, along with bassist, John Deacon and drummer/vocalist, Roger Taylor, challenged each other to reach for a higher musical consciousness. This divergent and inventive quartet ruled over the musical landscape of their time leading to the ultimate in musical creativity and longevity.

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I chose to feature this excerpt as it contains my favorite Queen-isms. Multi-layered harmonies, excruciatingly beautiful vocal and guitar tones, and an emotional depth of feeling still unmatched by anyone since. May’s ability to place his guitar lines in just the right place without overdoing them is quite remarkable. If that was all he was a master of, he would still go down of one of the greats of all time. But, lest we forget his most enduring legacy, his tone. Yes, that soaring and irresistible tone. I didn’t dare attempt to replicate it exactly as that would have been blasphemous, not to mention time consuming. I did the best I could to capture the aura of the man’s genius.

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The phrasing, the tonal colors, and the execution, are breathtaking. No shredding needed when you can create such melodic gems. Why waste excessive note wrangling when you can paint the world with sounds such as these?

Without question, the team of Freddie Mercury and Brian May rank right up there with the best of all time.

YouTube Cover Version

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Ariana Grande meets Soundgarden.

You have to give credit to pop-music songwriters. They know how to conjure up hooks that pull you in and lead you to the land of guilty pleasure that you swore you had abandoned. Take the song “God Is A Woman” from the vocal queen of pop, Ariana Grande. She can deliver real vocal supremacy that is more than enough to perk your ears up. But, in the over-produced world of pop music, there’s always more.

From the start, “God Is A Woman” is a hook monster. The guitar enters immediately with jazzed-up arpeggios loaded with a “Black Hole Sun” vibe that instantly resonates with anticipation and drama. The mastermind of this musical addition must be credited with knowing how the concept of cross-genre composition works. Hats off to foresight!

Playing Tips:

There are five chord forms in this song. Each will require just a little woodshedding to get under your fingers. They are and they aren’t barre forms. I’d rather call them “jazz grips”. Once you get these under your fingers you will be well on your way towards supercharging your chord knowledge and performance on the guitar.

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I recommend playing this on electric guitar, however there is no reason you can’t play it on acoustic. It will be a little more of a struggle of course but, the guitar is a challenge no matter what you wish to do beyond the typical capo up and play easy chords method that is infecting the YouTube airwaves.

I have included a link to the tab here as well as the YouTube tutorial. Have fun my guitar friends!

Guitar Pro PDF

God Is A Woman

YouTube Tutorial

“God Is A Woman” Tutorial

Play like Bruno. Be like Bruno.

“Nothing On You” Straight from the source.

Learning to perform acoustic versions of songs is much easier when it’s the artist who has performed it. It settles all arguments and for sure gives you the correct fingerings and chord voicing if you are unsure.

 

Of course, you had to figure that Bruno Mars played guitar. A musician of his stature has learned many things most of us never see out of pure necessity. More importantly, Bruno Mars is not just an entertainer, he is much more than that. He is a very wise musician who knows how to cultivate success. He knows how to write material with a groove unmatched in its groove factor more than anyone else in the last forty years.

 

But, there’s another angle, dare I say formula, which Bruno knows well. Surround yourself with top-flight musicians who are flawless in execution and navigating the stage. Choose also musician’s who share your mind-set. Don’t grasp for musical mechanics who can play your music backwards and forwards, chose the ones who take the gig because they belong there.

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Learning “Nothing On You” is a great way to get back the the foundation of a song. To see it’s parts in an unfiltered environment and to play like Bruno.

“Nothing On You” Tutorial

“Love Yourself” Live from Manchester

Chord Overview

The chords that Justin Bieber plays on his solo acoustic performance, “Love Yourself (Live – #OneLoveManchester) are some of the hardest to see that I’ve run into. I’ve received more that one request to clarify my fingerings of the chords. So here goes:

First of all, Justin has his guitar tuned down 1/2 step, which is a common pattern I’ve seen from him over the last year.

Problem 1

Therefore, tune to Eb tuning. Now the confusion begins. Justin plays in what appears to be the key of F# minor. However, being that we have tuned the guitar down 1/2 step, the “sounding” key is really F minor. Ugh!!! Now what?? Well, don’t panic, just play the forms where I show you to play them and have a blast. Do not become thrown by the sometimes confusing theoretical details of keys and tunings, although you will want to take care of this gap in knowledge eventually.

Problem 2

Justin’s chord pattern is fairly basic, however if you have not played block/barre forms you may be a little confused. Basically, Justin plays, F minor 7 – F minor/Ab – C minor 7. Practice the following chords slowly and carefully. Do not become frustrated as they are very useful chord forms for many songs.

Here are your fingerings:

And there you have it. If you need further clarification on these chord forms let me know.

-Mark

Lorde’s Three Shades of “Green Light”

Lorde’s new single Green Light is a study in contrasts for a guitar cover/tutorial/play-through. It’s the kind of song that grows on you after a couple listens. But, still you sit and ponder. It is worth it? But then you realize that this one has something to work with, it does have merit after all! After listening to what seems like a patchwork of disjointed ideas scattered about it soon becomes clear in the mind of the listener that Green Light does what all pop songs are programed to do.

66c454136a8b9858252bf1bc4124d64bThe content is not heavy. Basically, we have a 5 chord pop song like many others. Where as Green Light revs up slowly and patiently, most pop songs don’t have the patience for such maneuvering as their game is always centered on getting to the point early and often. It’s a mainstay of popular music. Lorde, is a “developer”. Her tendency is to take sparse material and dial things up as the minutes pass. Green Light is no exception,

The pre-chorus/chorus sections are a thing of lighthearted genius as a masterful but typical riff takes over that lights up the song with such energy that even Lorde can’t stay in control (check 3:03 of the video).

For your part, keeping the chorus riff even and controlled is no easy task on guitar, especially acoustic. Keep your right hand solid and bear down on the strumming pattern. That is, if you are covering it at it’s recorded tempo.

I can see this section played a little slower without damaging the intention of the writer. Experiment and see what you come up with.

-Mark

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Here is the guitar tutorial:

“Green Light” Acoustic Guitar Tutorial

Here is the chord chart for “Green Light”:

“Green Light” Chords PDF

 

 

The “Issues” of Julia Michaels.

A Textbook Acoustic Guitar Accompaniment

Say what you will about pop music, but it does have quality players and producers if you look for them. Take this performance by Julia Michaels with Dan Kanter on guitar. It’s nothing but beautiful and expertly performed. Dan Kanter is the best guitar accompanist around. His work on Justin Bieber’s acoustic “What Do You Mean” opened up the world to just how good a guitar part can be behind a pop vocalist.

Why Dan?

Dan raises the bar when it comes to harmonic choices in his playing. Give him three chords, four chords, five chords, it matters not. Dan will take what are usually easy throw away guitar forms and turn them into incredible soundscapes that lift the song beyond what most would deem possible.

Dan’s Method

RvnIg3c_In this song, Dan has tuned his guitar up one half step. Oh that Dan, you never know what he has up his sleeve. This will, of course, put more stress on your fingers as the string tension will be higher. Don’t worry if you have a smooth playing acoustic. If not, be advised that your fingers may not be happy with you. Read on for a couple solutions I’ve come up with.

 

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For her part, Julia Michaels was nothing short of fabulous. Maybe a little nervous at first? Well, who would fault her. The nervousness did not last long as Dan’s guitar lifted the session and Julia picked up on that energy immediately. Her vocal performance is fabulous and I would dare say that it rivals the original. A wonderful artist in her own right she has also co-written works for Justin Bieber and Selena Gomez! This gives her big street credentials and should keep her busy for quite a while.

Solutions to the Dan Dilemma

My solution to the “tuned up” Dan guitar was to simply capo on fret one. The only reason I did this was to avoid the obvious sound of breaking strings as people who watch this tutorial attempt to tune up. Heaven’s no. I’m not going to be responsible for that mess. Another solution? Play it in the original key of Ab major. One warning, you will all but lose any open strings. My advice is to either capo, tune up, or play in open position (without the capo) and sing it in the key of G major. Whatever you chose will depend on your experience and finger strength.

And Finally…

Have fun with this upper intermediate to lower advanced guitar part and please, don’t ask me to make it easier for you. It would be irresponsible of me to do so. Hey, eventually you have to deal with the reality that playing guitar is hard work and sometimes you have to step it up and push yourself.

Here is a link to your guitar pro pdf:

“Issues” julia Michaels Guitar Pro Tab

Here is the tutorial link:

“Issues” Guitar Tutorial

 

-Mark

 

 

“New Man” Ed Sheeran

A Barre Chord Feast!

Ed Sheeran’s new song “New Man” is just what the doctor ordered for those of you who need to get over your fear of barre chords. This phenomenon seems to be occurring more and more and the guitar Capo has pulled many away from the dreaded process of learning to get those fingers holding down multiple strings.

But as luck would have it, along comes Ed to help you deal with the inevitable. “New Man’ consists of five chords. G, E minor, D, C, and B minor. All chords are played with 5th string roots and nary a once do you touch the 6th or 1st string.

Here are your chord forms:

Song Form:

There are only two chord patterns used in the song:

Pattern 1 is as follows (mainly during the intro and verse):

E Minor-G Major-D Major-E minor-C Major-B minor-D Major-E minor

As you can see, E minor is the central focus of the progression giving us the expected minor tonality that matches the lyrical content of the verses.

Pattern 2 is played during the chorus and bridge sections, that progression is as follows:

G Major-D Major-E minor-C Major-B minor-D Major-E minor

The G Major lead in this section brings a nice contrast to the chords and gives the song the rhythmic lift it needs to launch us into the somewhat more hopeful chorus section.

As for how to deal with barre chords? I recommend starting them on electric guitar (if you have one) and once you produce a good clear sound, transfer over to acoustic. If you wish, stay on electric. Use a clean tone with light reverb or chorus.

As for playing the chords, do not use a pick but rather articulate each chord with your thumb, index, middle, and ring fingers. You can add a tap after each chord however, know that Ed doesn’t over-emphasize that technique in this song. I do it just to mark the rhythm of the pattern.

Take your time with this one. Move back and forth through the chords making sure you are accurate with both right and left hands.

Here is my tutorial on “New Man”.

“New Man” Guitar Tutorial